Category Archive: writing advice

Jan 28 2015

Most Important Advice for Fiction Writers

ink pen

After writing a short story and handing it over to my seventh grade Literature teacher for grading, she returned it with one sentence of advice written over the black text in big cursive red ink:
Make your reader like your characters before killing them!

 

This piece of advice stuck with me through all my fifteen-plus years of writing fiction. In other words, I needed to make my readers care about my characters enough to worry about their wellbeing.

That’s the stuff of fiction, isn’t it?

If readers don’t like your characters, can’t relate to or empathize with them, or refuse to find justification in their motives, traits, or behaviors, the reader wouldn’t care what happens to them.

And the common denominator in great fiction is great characters. Yes, even the unlikable antagonist can be a great character. The trick is to make your main characters three-dimensional, believable, and have a plausible motive.

  • Three-dimensional: Develop their background, a list of fears, wishes, flaws, and successes. Determine why they are the way they are by asking what special event in their life influenced them.
  • Believable: Build their character and have them stay true to it. When changes occur to their character, which they should over time, those changes should make sense and be influenced by the complications they encounter throughout the story.
  • Plausible motive: Give them a good reason for doing what they do, even if what they do is bad. Even the bad guy has “good” intentions.

 

If the reader does not care about your characters, they will not continue the story. If you lose your reader’s interest, you run the risk of losing that reader for good.

I admit, it’s hard to remember almost anything from my seventh grade Math class, but my Literature teacher’s valuable advice about good storytelling will forever stay with me.

What’s the most important piece of writing advice you received as a fiction writer? Tell me in the comments.


[Image credit: Dinuraj K]

Dec 14 2014

3 Ways to Write Better Erotica by Sherri Goodman

Important!

Blog post by guest contributor Sherry Goodman

pencil

Every writer dreams of having their work acknowledged by the world, their name in headlines, thousands (if not millions) of readers searching for their book, and their own work on the lips of every talk show host. That is, of course, unless the piece is being put on blast because it’s unanimously been deemed as some of the worst work of the year…Sadly that’s just what happened to author Ben Okri.

Bad Sex in Erotic Fiction?

According to The Independent, his novel, The Age of Magic, was just given the 2014 Bad Sex in Fiction award, a title chosen annually by the Literary Review.

While it’s certainly not an award that every author covets, what’s particularly interesting about Okri is that he’s actually an award-winning writer—the good kind. In 1991, he was given the Man Booker award for The Famished Road. At just 32, he became the youngest recipient ever to take home the award, though he was later beat out by 28-year-old Eleanor Catton in 2013 for The Luminaries.

So how did a renowned author receive such a, um, special award? Well, it may be hard for some to admit, but just because you’re a talented writer doesn’t mean you’re good at writing about everything. Even the most prestigious authors have a few subjects in their repertoire that could use some touching up.

Even the most prestigious authors have a few subjects in their repertoire that could use some touching up.

You just have to be open to doing what’s necessary to fine-tune them.

Now, just because your erotic writing could use some help doesn’t mean anyone doubts your skills in the sack. I’m sure you’re very talented. I’m sure that thing you do with your leg and the bedpost should be studied by contortionists and that you’re ability to change positions while “never leaving your post” is nothing short of magic. But being able to describe the act on the page, in a way that makes readers feel as though they’re taking part in the act, is a whole different ball game. You could be a tiger in the bedroom, but readers will instantly recognize if you’re typing timidly.

In order to really write the hell out of an erotic story, you’re going to need to find out how to release that tiger from its bashful cage.

How to Write Better Erotica Scenes

There’s really only a few ways to break out of your shell and better your writing for these particular scenes.

  1. Read every erotic novel you can get your hands on. Go through every book and then read through them again. Take note of the equal portions of writing describing what’s going on and the characters’ responses.
  2. Reminisce. Think about the times you’ve had sex, and highlight some of the reasons why an experience was more memorable than others. What did your partner do that made being intimate resonate with you? Was there a certain way your partner touched you, something your partner said, or even just your partner’s enthusiasm in the heat of it all that made that moment unforgettable? Write every bit of it down in explicit detail. Afterwards, read what you wrote. Does your writing really reflect the heat of that night? If not, try to see where your description is lacking. Your goal is to recreate the emotions for your readers to experience. You want them to feel the same attachment to the sex scene that you feel.
  3. Watch an adult movie. Watch the videos and describe what’s happening in order to get comfortable with the wording. Utilize the 5 Ws of journalism and describe how the couple on screen interacts, the sounds they make, what each seems to be feeling—write it all down. Having a visual to utilize for inspiration can dramatically improve your dialogue and scene description skills when writing about similar acts.

Even if you love reading sexy stories and can’t help but grin when thinking about your own particularly hot liaisons, that doesn’t always mean you can translate a steamy sex scene onto the page. Get out of your comfort zone a bit and give some of these exercises a go. Think of it this way: even if your erotic writing needs improvement and potentially painstaking research, at least you know putting in the work will be fun!

I’d like to hear from you in the comments section. How do you tackle writing erotic scenes?

 


 Want to write a guest post for the blog? Contact Leslie Lee Sanders with your idea.

[Image credit: Alan Cleaver]

Feb 01 2014

How to Improve Your Writing by Reading Your Book’s Reviews

fivestar

There are three things you can do when it comes to reviews of your book. The popular advice is that you should not read them. This saves you from getting discouraged if readers bash your work. You can also read the great reviews only, which requires you to have a friend willing to look up reviews and send you the links to only the four and five-star reviews. Or you can read the reviews (the positive and negative) and learn from them. Here’s how I analyze reviews to allow it to improve my writing, and how you can do it too. But first things first…

Must do:

  • Read reviews when you are feeling your best. There’s nothing like reading a hate-filled review when you’re already having a bad day.
  • Go into it with an analytical eye and a blank doc (or pen). Think of it like an important assignment, you’ll want to take notes.
  • Focus on the common praises and complaints among several reviews. What’s the popular topic readers are commenting on? This is what you’ll have to address most importantly in your future works.
  • Focus on the things you CAN improve. No need to stress over the character’s names when you can’t change them in the next book of the series.
  • Be prepared to do the work. If it’s too easy, you’re not doing it right. A motto you’d want to pick up if you haven’t already (can be applied to anything too).
  • Remember reviews are highly subjective. Know a reader may love the very thing another reader hates. So take caution when making changes, and modify what feels right to you and your vision.
  • Understand this technique may not work for every author. Sometimes success requires a bit of luck. Still, don’t give up yet.

 

Must NOT do:

  • Respond to reviews, especially the negative ones. Don’t invite confrontation or bullies by publicly “defending” your work. Also, some readers are afraid to be honest when they know the author is watching.
  • Try to explain your intentions or correct the reviewer. Each person will take something different from your story that you may not have intended. Remember, that’s the beauty of books, it inspires discussion.
  • Don’t take it personal. Sure some reviewers attack the author. However, they do not know you personally and their words are just assumptions and accusations. Remember that.
  • Don’t focus on things you can not change. Your voice and writing style is unique to you. Don’t change what’s natural to you and what makes you stand out.

 

How to use book reviews to your advantage

When reading reviews ask yourself these questions:

  • What does the majority of the reviewers like? Discover what you’re doing right and continue to do it.
  • What does the majority of reviewers NOT like? Find what you’re doing not-so-good and stop doing it.
  • What specifically did the reviewers comment on? What topic dominated the review? See what readers think of your characters, plot, dialogue, etc., and improve it in your next project.
  • Were the reviewer’s expectations met? What did readers expect from your story or writing, and how did you deliver or drop the ball. Then correct it in your next project.
  • What do readers hope to read in your future books? How can I deliver? Do they mention they want to see more of a certain character, etc.?
  • What do readers want to read less of in future books? How can I axe it? Do they mention what they can do without?

 

 

How reading reviews worked for my series

 

The First Book

In 2012, the first book of my Refuge Inc. series was released. And the very first review was a two-star review from a reader declaring she wouldn’t be following the series. Okay. That was just one reader, right? I mean, the betas loved it. But as time passed and more reviews came in, I realized that although most reviewers liked the story, it wasn’t what they had expected.

So as the reviews continued to pour in. I began to take note.

What was the majority of readers saying? Well, one common interest most of them shared was their fondness of the four-legged companion in my story. One common criticism was my characters being intimate too soon.

So even though I had an outline for the entire series and knew where the story was headed, I knew I had to listen to the readers and alter a few things.

The Second Book

One of the major changes I made in book two was to axe the sex and up the action. And reader’s appreciated the changes. In a lot of cases they actually missed the intimacy! Since the dog was well liked, the dog became the characters’ chief motivation of book two.

As we speak, book two of the series is highly favored (estimated from current reviews and ratings).

The Third Book

So I repeated my actions for book three, which was released late 2013, taking notes from reviews of the previous books. In most cases, readers enjoy it equally or more than book two! (I got this data by comparing reviews of the three books by the same reviewer. In most cases, the reviewer enjoy each book more than the previous.)

To balance the “two much intimacy” in book one, with the “lack of intimacy” in book two, I added one intimate scene in book three. And so far, what I’m getting from reviewers is that it was just right.

Conclusion

I owe a big chunk of the series development to the readers, especially those who reviewed the series or publicly stated their opinions. If they liked the series or not, in a lot of ways, they helped me write it. From the mention of the character’s behavior, to the demands of an epilogue. I listened.

I constantly remind myself that reviews are just opinions, and the fate of the series can change drastically in the future, but (as of today) those opinions helped me write a series that the fans enjoy. And that was my mission.

I still get giddy when a reader says, “I’m disappointed that Adam and Elliot’s story has come to an end.” Only because it feels like I accomplished what I set out to do … create a world and characters most readers would enjoy.

 

 

 

Image credit [Emily Conwell]

Jan 14 2014

Big Blog Goals for 2014: Upcoming Posts, Book Releases, and Blog Series

2014fireworks

Happy 2014! Time’s flying, huh?

I started this blog on Blogger in 2010, then transitioned to WordPress at the start of 2013, though it feels like yesterday. I promised myself at the beginning of 2013 to write more helpful blog posts and to do it more regularly. My aim was to publish a minimum of one post a month. I’m glad I accomplished that goal. Now join me as I continue in 2014!

Here’s the direction this blog is headed:

 

NEW BLOG POSTS:

Look for the new blog post ‘Getting Started: Book Formatting and Interior Design for Self-Publishers’ to be posted soon. Currently gathering links to some formatters and designers. If you used a formatting service and want to recommend a company please do so in the comments. I would appreciate it and I bet other blog visitors would too.

I’ll post about writing, blogging, marketing, and other useful posts related to publishing. If you want to suggest a topic for a post, have a question you’d like me to answer, or even want to contribute to the blog with a guest post, shoot an email to me at: leslie[at]leslieleesanders.com or use my contact form. I love hearing from you!

 

NEW BLOG SERIES:

Also, the Best-selling Book Blog Series (BBBS) is still in the planning stage. I’m working on interview questions and gathering a list of best-selling authors who wouldn’t mind answering them. Have someone in mind? Feel free to comment and tell us who you’d most like to hear from regarding best-selling books and how to create them.

 

BOOK PROGRESS AND RELEASES:

  • A couple of books are planned for release this year that you will hear about on this blog. The After will be published under my horror writer penname L.L. Sanders. It’s a collection of short stories in the horror/sci-fi genre, exploring the afterlife theme.
  • The Complete Darkness Collection (Refuge Inc. 1-3) is currently in audio production. An estimated 13.5 hours of MM, post-apocalyptic goodness.
  • I’m currently in the midst of writing Darkness Eternal (A Refuge Inc. Story). This story takes place a century in the future and follows new characters and different life altering mysteries.
  • Speaking of works in progress, I revisited a couple earlier WIPS that I had, um, abandoned. The Frozen Lake, a tale of young siblings befriending a young murderer in the isolated forest where they are sheltered. Deceiving the Herd, an LGBT Young Adult novel exploring the themes of loss, death, and grief. The Frozen Lake and Deceiving the Herd are non-erotic and will possibly be published under my pseudonym.

Other plans:

 

CONNECT WITH AUDIENCE:

In addition to providing helpful posts on publishing in general, I also considered being more open, getting rid of the introverted side of my personality, and actually showing more personality on the blog. It’s time to allow my readers, visitors, and subscribers to know a little more about who I am and how I can help.

 

VIDEO BLOGGING:

I tossed around the idea of video blogging and posting a series of videos on this blog every month or so. Still tossing the idea around, though.

 

NON-FICTION E-BOOK:

I’m considering updating, editing and combining all the 2013 posts on writing, blogging, marketing and publishing into an e-book to make for convenient reading for subscribers.

 

 

So there you have it. My goals for 2014. Jump on board with me and stay updated by subscribing to my mailing list. Let’s make 2014 a very productive one.

 

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[Image credit: Elescir]

Nov 06 2013

Write a Bestseller with Help from a New Blog Series

Let’s write a bestseller!

We all dream of writing a best-selling book, but most of us don’t begin a story with that intention. Some authors say, “Write the story you want to write. Don’t write in hopes of making your book the next big thing, or turning your book into a movie. When you write what’s true in your heart, the sales, rewards, and fame come later.”

If those are rules, I’m the one to break ’em. Let’s write a book with the goal of making it a bestseller!

BBBSIn 2014, I’ll be launching the Best-Selling Book Blog Series (BBBS). Twelve blog posts published over a twelve week period, discussing how to write and create a best-selling book. Now, I’m no expert, but my goal is to figure out if there is any truth to the whole “best-selling book formula” theory.

 

Yes, it’s absolutely free.

 

I plan to interview some experts. Get their opinions on writing a bestseller, compare their journeys on becoming best-selling authors, and squeeze some tips and tidbits out of them.

While simultaneously writing my next novel, I will discuss each step I take in the journey to find the best-selling book formula, and my attempts to create a bestseller using a “formula,” and how you can do it too.

This twelve week case study will touch on such topics as:

  • Setting goals

  • Creating a marketing plan

  • Story outlining

  • Interviews from best-selling authors

  • Affordable and effective book promotion tips and more

Your input will help get the series prepared for publication on this blog! I’m still putting all the pieces together at the moment, making this the best time for some reader feedback.

What topics are you most interested in during the Best-Selling Book Blog Series? Vote below, leave a comment, or send a private email (whichever works for you). Thanks in advance for your input!

Best-selling Book Blog Series
Topic I most want covered in the 12 week Best-selling Book Blog Series is...

Let me remind you, there is no fee. There is nothing to buy. However, this is merely a concept to an in-depth project. If you’re interested in where my research takes me, or you like the idea of creating your own bestselling book, be sure to sign up to my mailing list (if you’re not already) to be the first to know about any BBBS developments.

 

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Oct 19 2013

Pluck Great Advice from Abundant Information by Experimenting

overabundant

There is so much information out there. This expert says do this. That guru says do that. How do you find great advice among the plethora of tips, tricks, and tactics? One word: Experiment.

 

I’m skeptical of the one size fits all approach, and you should be too. There’s no formula to effective blogging, marketing, writing, or selling. If there was, that would mean blogging, and the rest, were easy to accomplish. You know, the one-two step of instance success. We know that’s not true. If it were that easy, why is so much advice given on these topics?

Simply because one approach does not work for all.

To figure out what works or what doesn’t work for you, you have to try it out. Apply the tactics, and use the tricks and tips you learn.

There is no one method for success.

Another way to see what advice suits you is to be open to new information.

I held onto a piece of advice I’d been given, and wouldn’t let go even years after it became outdated.

That’s a big no-no. Learn, grow, and adapt. It’s okay to change. Change your mind, change your beliefs, change your tactics, and see if a new voice can help you reach your goals.

Here are some common reactions some people have when presented with new advice:

  1. Accept it. Apply it.
  2. Question it. Reject it.
  3. Use what’s helpful. Discard the rest.

These are all normal reactions to the guidance we receive. I’m a number 3 type of girl, by the way. Even so, I’ll go ahead and add a BUT. No matter how you choose to take the information given to you, always keep an open mind.

Remember: Some might find particular advice helpful. Others might find that same advice useless. Test it to see which it is for you. Impractical or beneficial?

For example, one type of advice we hear a lot is: write engaging headlines.

A simple trick used to reel in readers. Write a witty, shocking, or controversial headline. Sure, this works for many, but some won’t bite because they see the hook and the line. My advice? Title your article for what it is (i.e. Do This to Get More Followers on Twitter). If your audience wants to know how to get more followers on Twitter, how effective would a headline like ‘Following is as Simple as Tweet is to Spell’? For sanity’s sake, just tell them what the darn article is promising to deliver, and deliver.

See? It’s all about what info works for you. Creative headlines do not always work for me.

Another example of advice regularly given. Write how you speak. It’s more personal.

Sounds good. This is great advice, BUT what if you’re are a normally a formal speaker. Are you too boring for your message to get across? What if your personality sucks? What if readers don’t like snarky or aren’t fond of curse words in every other paragraph? Run the risk of never getting blog visitors again because you want to display your character? My advice? Deliver your message the way that feels natural for you and your audience.

You don’t have to be conversational to get blog hits. Sometimes readers don’t want personality. Maybe they want specifics. So give them what they came for. My post, Proofreading Tips: Kindle and Microsoft Word’s Text-to-Speech, is one of my most popular posts on my blog. And guess what? It’s as straightforward as it gets. Honest headline and content that delivers what’s promised. Done.

My point?

The most basic advice and presentation still has value. So don’t reject it. Use what’s helpful.

 

Things to keep in mind:

  • Never let a surplus of information scare you away. You can find something beneficial in all advice.

 

  • Don’t take everything at face value. Just because something worked for others doesn’t mean it’ll work for you too.

 

  • Learn when to let go of a method, a source, or a piece of advice. It’s okay to change.

 

Although I am skeptical of the one size fits all approach to giving and taking instruction, I am fairly confident that the only way you will make the abundance of advice, or any shared information, work for you (including this very post) is to try it on yourself. Look at it from all angles before deciding how best to use it.

Do you agree? Please, share your thoughts below.

 

 

 

 

[image credit: daniel_iversen]

 

Sep 26 2013

My Top 5 Most Helpful Blog Posts for Writers: Part 2

fiveI’ve been all over the Internet, dropping off tidbits of advice here and there that may help your freelance writing, book writing, blogging, and marketing efforts.

Below are descriptions and links to 5 of my own blog posts (published on this site and others) that I believe are the most helpful for writers.

Part 1 is here: My Top 5 Most Helpful Blog Posts for Writers.

 

1. The Elementary Marketing Tactic You Don’t Know You’re Missing

Trying to make a name for yourself?

Yep, most of us are. That’s why we roam the Internet, visiting blog after blog, signing up to mailing lists, for webinars, tutorials, and otherwise investing in our freelancing careers.

We ask ourselves questions like: How can I reach a wider audience? How can I prove that I’m the expert my client needs? How can I become a recognizable face in my field?

2. How Your Past Mistakes Can Make You a Go-To Blogger

We all make mistakes.

Most people learn from their own mistakes. Some learn from other people’s mistakes.

Why is this important?

This is one way you become an authority, a go-to person, an expert.

According to my Encarta dictionary, an expert is “someone who is skilled or knowledgeable about a particular subject, skill, training, or who is experienced in a particular field or activity”. We’re all experts of something, be it parenting, football, writing, or Twitter.

3. 8 Ways to Generate Blogging Ideas

Having a hard time coming up with new and interesting blog post ideas?

Looking for a new slant on an existing topic, or even something more original to blog about?

Been there. Maybe we all have.

Here are 8 ways to generate some fresh blogging ideas no matter what field you’re in. They’ve helped me. I’m sure they will help you too.

4. How to Earn Recognition as a Writer

When asked the question, “What can a writer do to get noticed?” Some people may simply answer . . . write. They believe that all a writer must do for a little recognition is to write and write a lot and eventually you would have so many books or articles that someone is bound to recognize you.

Yes, writing is important as a writer and definitely one of the first things you should do, but you also must write well. Many newbies forget this rule. It is one thing to be known as “that woman who writes stories that pulls you in,” verses “that chick who uses the word agenda too much.”

5. Simple Solutions to Ten Common Writing Roadblocks

Writers are as different as the stories they tell or the expert information they provide. Even so, many things we share are the problems that plaque us as creative individuals.

Here are ten of the most common challenges writers face at one point in their career. But, fear no more. I’ve got the solution to all ten of your writer issues.

 

 

And there you have it. Part two to My Top 5 Most Helpful Posts for Writers. Feel free to share your very own helpful blog post or two for writers in the comments section below.  I’d love to check ’em out! (I’ve installed CommentLuv to make sharing your posts easier.)

 

 

Image credit: Andreas Cappell

Jul 30 2013

Simple Solutions to Ten Common Writing Roadblocks

help

Writers are as different as the stories they tell or the expert information they provide. Even so, many things we share are the problems that plague us as creative individuals. Here are ten of the most common challenges writers face at one point in their career. But, fear no more. I’ve got the solution to all ten of your writer issues.

Lack of Ideas

Where do you get your ideas from? Almost all artist have been asked that very question. The reason this is a popular question is because people are always looking for ways to be inspired. Coming up with creative ideas can be a tedious process.

Ideas for stories, characters, settings, plots and even articles come from everywhere. Here’s a list of places to look for some creative inspiration:

  • News stories. Everything from the weather (for apocalyptic tales) to announcements of the latest lottery winners (for tales of cursed families) can be a source of inspiration. News stories are often so fantastic that you don’t have to stretch the imagination much to plot a story.
  • Past experiences are not just a good place to look for writing your memoir. We all have a past, and by choosing specific and emotional parts from your experiences, you could spin it into an inspiring, entertaining, and memorable story.
  • Strangers. Play the guessing game. Guess a stranger’s life story, occupation, ambitions, secrets, etc., just by the way they look, sound, what they’re wearing, what they’re doing, or what car they drive. When you play the guessing game it helps your mind invent some great characters and their motives.
  • Entertainment. Movies, books, poems, music, paintings, pictures, and even food can give you some great ideas. Their themes, messages, or the emotion they incite in you can be a powerful tool for gathering ideas.
  • Secrets, fantasies, and daydreams. Some of the best tales come strictly from what’s hiding in the deep, dark corners of our minds. Things that we’d rather not say or do ourselves but can allow our characters to say and act out, sometimes make for the most fascinating characters, situations and plot lines.

Lack of Originality

Has every idea that pops into your mind been overused, overwritten, and overworked? Even plots twists and character quirks are turning into clichés?

Put your own flair on clichés so the idea would be appreciated instead of being boring. Use clichés to your advantage.

  • Combine and create. Take multiple clichés and combined them to create something new (i.e. the popular high school jock also happens to be a lonely computer geek at home).
  • State the obvious. Purposely set up a cliché scenario and have the characters point out the cliché. By crafting your story using this technique, you say what the reader is thinking so they’re less likely to call you out on it. it’s also a good way to incorporate some humor.

Lack of Inspiration

Sometimes it’s a combination of lack of originality, rejection and self-doubt that can make us feel uninspired, or causes the fierce determination we once had to dwindle. Here are some ways to get back that motivation.

  • Go back to the beginning. Remember the reason you wanted to start the project in the first place. Reliving that passion might reignite the flame.
  • Envision the end. Imagine the sense of accomplishment you’ll get once you’ve finished your project. Imagine the rewards you might receive (i.e. the ability to share your work, the inspiration you’ll give to others who read your work, the amazing feedback, the fan letters, etc).
  • Surround yourself with positive things. Decorate your office or writing space with your awards, fan mail, and other accomplishments and achievements. This should remind you of where you came from and where you’re headed, and encourage you to reach your goals.

Rejection

If you haven’t experienced rejection in your writing career, prepare to. Rejection is the most common experience writers share. Be it manuscript rejection from an editor or agent, or rejection from readers in their reviews of your book. One way or another, you will experience rejection. The trick to getting through this is to understand how rejection can help you.

  • Rejection helps you understand where you need to improve. It sets you up for later success by giving you an advantage on your next project. At least now you know what areas you need to focus on and develop in the future.
  • Rejection, and handling it properly, helps you develop a thick skin. No matter what, rejection hurts, but over time you will learn to take it in stride. Let it work for you, not against you.
  • Rejection happens to us all, even to the best of us. Stephen King’s bestselling novel Carrie was rejected thirty times before finally getting published, becoming a worldwide bestseller and made into the classic film, and later, a couple remakes. Understanding rejection is a part of the business–and that it happens to the best of us–will prepare you for it and help you handle it successfully when it happens. Never allow rejection to keep you from pursuing your goals.

Self-Doubt

Self-doubt is a big one, and can usually come about because of our experience with rejection or not enough experience in writing or publishing in general. We tend to doubt that we have what it takes to accomplish our goals. “Do I know what I’m doing? Will I ever be published? No one will read my work. Who in their right mind would take a chance on me?” The list goes on and on.

Some of us struggle with self-doubt in many areas of our life, but the trick to overcome this debilitating power is to focus on your worth, your accomplishments, and your good qualities instead of dwelling on your failures and weaknesses.

  • Find your strengths. What are you good at? What can you do flawlessly? What are you most proud of? What have you accomplished so far?
  • Discover your value. What makes you noteworthy, respected, unique, or attractive?

Answering these question can help you rid yourself of that pesky self-doubt and bring back your confidence.

Poor Time Management Skills

Falling behind on projects? Find yourself being late or having to postpone obligations a lot lately? You find yourself not following through on commitments you’ve made? You may have poor time management skills. It can get the best of us, from the established writer to the beginner. Here’s some things to keep in mind.

  • Keep a schedule and adhere to it. Create an online editorial calendar (or update your smartphone calendar or even tack up a wall calendar) to keep track of deadlines, dates of submissions and other important dates, and never trust your memory to do the job for you.
  • Plan ahead. Managing a blog? Take advantage of your blog’s “Schedule Post” option. Write your blog posts ahead of time and schedule them to publish at a later date.
  • Integrate social media. Use social media integration to cut back on the time it takes to market your work and projects to your online social network sites. So when your latest blog goes live it automatically shares with your followers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. This is another way to automate your life.

Catch-22s

You want to pitch an article to a publication, but the editor requests published clips. However, you won’t ever get published clips if you can’t land a gig. Or maybe you need a published book to attract a platform, but you need a platform before you can sell your book.

These are just a couple of the many paradoxes writers have to grapple with. So what do you do? How do you get through it?

  • In need of some clips or writing samples? Pluck an article or blog post from your own blog, website or use a guest blog post in the related subject.
  • Can’t get website visitors to sign up to your mailing list or newsletter? Offer something of high value for free in exchange for them signing up. Offer exclusive information to subscribers. Give away highly valued information or secrets that will help your audience.
  • Need to build your writer platform? Write free guest posts in your field. Give away some great tips and advice to help build a following and a reputation, all with the help of another expert’s established platform.

There are many ways around the inconsistencies you might face in the publishing industry. Just use your creativity to think outside the box and get the results you crave.

Procrastination

One surefire way to avoid putting off writing, marketing or other duties is to avoid distractions and temptations. What you don’t do today may not always get done tomorrow, especially if you keep adding to your to-do list. Here’s how to keep procrastination from taking over your time.

  • Make a vow. Commit to a specific time frame or time of day to write. Vow to write at the prearranged time every day.
  • Stay motivated. Motivate yourself with incentives. Set small goals and reward yourself as you hit each goal.
  • Avoid distractions. Isolate yourself away from distractions while you work. Turn off the phone and internet, unplug the television, and put your tablets and reading devices away. No checking emails or status updates. Focus solely on writing for the allotted time.
  • Prevent interruptions. Make sure your family members have everything they need before you sit down to write, to limit interruptions, and that includes taking care of your own needs as well.
  • Do it now. Don’t put it off. Bestselling science fiction author Hugh Howey’s secret to success is “When I see something that needs doing, I do it.” Simple as that.

Fear of Failure

Just like rejection and self-doubt, the fear of failure can hold us back from what we could accomplish and often does. Fear is a powerful emotion, and the sense of failing can be just as powerful. So how do you combat this common writer problem?

  • Accept that you can’t win at everything. Understand that failure is an option but not the end all. You may have failed at one point in your career and will probably fail again sometime down the road, but you can handle it.
  • Imagine the worse possible outcome and come up with a plan to counter it. Come up with a just-in-case scenario. Having a plan will help you move on, but gives you the courage to confront and overcome your fear in case it manifests.
  • Live it and let it go. Imagine the worse possible outcome, live it in your mind, realized it’s not the end of the world, and get it out of your system. The fear wouldn’t hold as much power over your productivity.

Writer’s Block

Lastly, the infamous writer’s block. We all claim to suffer from this ailment from time to time. Sitting at our desks and staring at a blank document on the screen is nothing more than the result of the above plagues in many combinations; self-doubt, fear of failure, a little bit of procrastination, a sprinkle of poor time management, etc.

Writer’s block does not exist. That’s right. It’s only a name we give to the act of not being able to creatively produce. We should not give power to the illusion. Here’s how to break free.

  • Do not acknowledge writer’s block as anything else but an excuse not to craft. Definitely do not give it a name. Call it exactly what it is. Instead of believing you have some sort of mystical block and waiting around for a magical veil to lift and eliminate it, admit the true problem (i.e. I can’t seem to come up with any fresh ideas today). By understanding the underlying issue, you know how to better tackle it and resolve it.
  • Start somewhere. Anywhere. Start or continue writing your project at a more interesting part of your story or scene, like a love scene, the climax or ending. Or add a surprise or plot twist. Or simply start on the next chapter.  Add a new character or get rid of one. Write something. Anything.
  • Eliminate all distractions. No TV, no music, no phone, no checking emails or text messages, eat before sitting down at your desk so you are not distracted by hunger, etc.
  • Motivate yourself by setting a goal. Set a writing goal for the day or hour and reward yourself when you hit it.

 

Follow the solutions for these ten common writer problems and you’ll be back on track and on your way to making your writing dreams come true. Defeat your writer issues, don’t let them defeat you. Which writer roadblock have you recently hit or overcome?

 

Jul 03 2013

How to Be a Great Guest Blogger

keyboardtypeIn the writing industry, authors often guest blog on an independent book blogger’s blog to promote their latest book release. In the freelancing industry, writers are propositioned or paid as freelance writers to share their expertise on a blog. No matter which tier you fall under, it’s always best to leave a good first impression. It doesn’t matter why you guest blog, but by applying these courteous and memorable steps, you increase your chances of getting invited back to the blog and making a good first and last impression.

1. Thank the host.

Remember, a simple “thank you” is still a universal courtesy of appreciation. Any chance you get, in the initial email, the comments of the blog, or even in the post itself, thank your host for inviting you to their blog, or for featuring you and your post that day, etc. Being sincere can get you far, however, thank your host even if you just want to turn on the charm.

2. Encourage comments, feedback and engagement.

Don’t just sell, sell, sell, and blah, blah, blah. Welcome feedback. At the end of your post, ask your audience questions. Show your personality. Ask them to share your post with their friends and followers. And join the comment discussions, which bring us to…

3. Reply to comments.

This is a big one. How rude is it to have your guest post go live and you’re nowhere to be found when the comments start rolling in? If you did a good job you should expect comments. Naturally, commenters expect a reply. They’re talking to you, about you or your work, so show your gratitude for their time and their comments by responding to them.

4. Share the blog post. Spread the word:

You’ve asked your audience to spread the word, so jump on that bandwagon and share too. Bring in more readers for your host as she brings in more awareness of you, your product, or whatever else you have to offer. Plus, the more people who know of your post, the more exposure, right? So don’t forget this important step.

5. Research. Familiarize yourself with the host’s blog.

• Become a regular reader.
• Engage with the blog by sharing posts, leaving comments, and signing up to the newsletter.
• Know the subject matter, the mission, the average post lengths, and the personality of the blog.

6. Research. Know your target audience.

No matter if you’re blogging to promote your latest book or as a paid gig, you must always be aware of who you are speaking to. Know your audience. Hopefully you’ve done your research before arranging a guest post spot. Questions I’ve asked myself about this blogs: Are you speaking to professionals or amateurs? Published or unpublished authors? Indie published or traditionally published? Fiction writers or non-fiction writers?

Now ask yourself, does the blog target a specific group, age-range or education level? You’re more successful at reaching your goal if you know who you’re talking to and how best to get them to listen to your message, by doing your research.

7. Make being a guest easy for your host.

• Hit or beat deadlines.
• Provide all information, links, images, etc., your host needs.
• Have questions? Ask them sooner rather than later.
• Give your host the time she needs to respond to your emails and to handle any concerns.
• Send reminders if need be.

8. Smile for the camera.

Registar a Gravitar (a Globally Recognized Avatar) with an updated bio pic for Gravitar enabled website, such as WordPress, for comments, and/or supply the host with an updated pic of yourself to incorporate into the blog post. People want to see the person behind the post. They want to see who’s “speaking” and who they’re speaking to when commenting.

9. Learn the general rules of blogging and the rules of the blog.

• Learn and follow the host’s rules and guidelines.
• Learn the proper way to reply to commenters, how to engage with your audience, and write for your audience.
• Learn how to format posts, how to write engaging headlines, etc.

10. Be yourself and have fun.

Most importantly, yep, be yourself. Show your personality and go into it with positive thinking. If you think of guest blogging as a chore, guess what, it becomes a pain. This can result in you slacking off on one or more of the above tips and not having a good experience or results.
If you have a chance to guest blog go into it with excitement. This is your chance to get the word out about what you have to offer. Apply the tips above and don’t be surprised when your host welcomes you back with open arms. Do you find this information helpful? Please leave a comment and tell me so. And feel free to share.

 

Image credit:espensorvik

Apr 18 2013

My Top 5 Most Helpful Blog Posts for Writers

top 5Here are links to the top 5 most helpful blog posts on this site from 2012 or earlier. This list is especially targeted to writers, aspiring or established. Here’s your chance to view some of my earlier but most influential posts, chosen by me. Hope you find these posts helpful and inspiring.

 

  1. Embracing Rejection Instead of Fearing It – All writers experience publisher/editor/agent rejection at one point in their writing careers, but serious writers learn to embrace that rejection and use it to improve their writing. Here’s how.
  2. Why Writing Well Consistently is Crucial for an Author – Part of an author’s job is to market themselves and their work. We keep up with our online social networks, updating Facebook and Twitter and engaging with other authors, editors, agents and readers. We blog, we’re interviewed and participate in discussions on online forums and blogs. Whether we’re writing books or writing Facebook updates, our number one job as a writer is to write and write well.
  3. Read More to Write Better – Sure we read fiction to escape reality or to be entertained. We read nonfiction to learn or to be inspired. We read for various reasons. However, did you know to be a better writer you have to read? Not just read, but read analytically.
  4. Reasons Writing What You Love Works – The titles I like most are the ones with subjects I enjoy writing about. The stories with an underlying theme or issue that’s close to my heart. And I found I get thoughtful, more positive responses from readers when I write what I love. Below are some reasons why writing what you love can create better, more fulfilling writing.
  5. The Complicated Story Ending – The ending of your story should be just as engaging as the beginning hook. It should be emotionally satisfying, and tie up most if not all loose ends. If the book is part of a series, it still needs to stand on its own, and answer all major story questions.

 

Go ahead and click on the titles that you are most interested in. Leave a comment too (this blog uses CommentLuv so your most recent blog post will be displayed in the comments section when you leave a comment). So, please, share your thoughts.

 

 

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